114th Congress: We're updating with new data as it becomes available.

OpenCongress Blog

Blog Feed Comments Feed More RSS Feeds

Republicans Agree to Drop 'Forcible Rape' Language From Abortion Bill

February 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

House Republicans are backing away from controversial language in their No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act that would change a long-standing exemption in abortion laws that allows federal funds to be used for abortions in the case of rape or incest by requiring that a rape be “forcible” to qualify. According to Politico, the bill’s author, Rep. Chris Smith [R, NJ-4], has agreed to amend the bill and remove the language after pro-choice groups and political commentators of all stripes expressed outrage.

“The word forcible will be replaced with the original language from the Hyde Amendment,” a spokesman for Rep. Smith told Politico.

The Hyde Amendment is a federal law banning the use of federal funds for elective abortions that is renewed annually as a rider on the Health and Human Services Appropriations bill. It applies primarily to Medicaid, but it will also be applied to all elements of the new health care reform law as it comes into effect over the next couple years. The No Taxpayers Funding for Abortions Act would make the Hyde Amendment permanent law so that it doesn’t have to be renewed every year.

More importantly, however, the bill would expand the Hyde Amendment to make it more difficult for businesses and individuals from using their own money to purchase health insurance that covers abortion services. The guiding theory behind the bill is that money is fungible, so no matter how carefully federal money is segregated from private money, the mere presence of federal money still frees up private money to be spent on abortions. It would, for example, block companies that offer their employees health plans that cover abortions from receiving tax credits. And individuals who buy their own policies would no longer be able to claim a deduction for the cost of their insurance policy if the policy covers abortions.

The dominant theory in the liberal blogosphere is that the rape-redefining language in the bill was never actually meant to become law. It was put in the bill to distract the pro-choice community from all the other stuff they wouldn’t like and would eventually be dropped to give the illusion of compromise, when in fact the Republicans are still getting everything they wanted. Sure enough, they’re dropping the rape language.

House Speaker John Boehner [R, OH] has said that this bill is one of his top priorities for the year. Expect action on it soon, and don’t be surprised if this, or some version of it, attracts a bit of Democratic support in the Senate as well.

Rep. Smith is pictured above.

Like this post? Stay in touch by following us on Twitter, joining us on Facebook, or by Subscribing with RSS.